Last week, a staff retention survey was published, according to which certain contestants in the race for hosting the EMA were less liked by the EMA staff. And now the decision-making progress is going forward.

As explained in one of our earlier blogs, Member States had the opportunity to submit an offer to host the EMA by 31 July 2017. 19 Member States made use of this, not all of the submissions being equally convincing, and Member States will vote in a Eurovision-style voting in November. To give the Member States an idea on what they will vote for and in order to support the decision-making process, the Commission examined all offers and provided an assessment of these on the basis of stipulated unweighted criteria.

The Commission assessment consists, inter alia, of individual assessment summaries and complete assessment grids of each offer, as well as a general assessment summary. The assessment is based on six objective criteria (premises, accessibility, education facilities, labour market/ social security/ medical care; business continuity and geographical spread) as well as other specific issues, like relocation terms and benefits provided by the Member States.

Taking in account the limited time available and the intention to treat all offers fairly, the Commission has decided to base its assessment only on the offers as presented by the Member states. Therefore, the Commission did not ask the Member States for clarification or for supplementation of their offers. It is questionable, however, whether this really leads to equal treatment or if this only means that less detailed offers, even if the city fulfills all requirements, come off worse.

Understandably, the premises are one of the key elements for the relocation of the EMA. The proposed new premises should not only meet the requirements of the Agency, but must also be ready in time. According to the offers, all of the premises fulfill the Agency's requirements. However, detailed information on individual requirements is often missing. For the Member States, that will not make it easy to decide.

For EMA's international staff, good accessibility is also very important, not only because of a large number of meetings with experts coming from across Europe but also for visiting their home countries. However, it is not only important how long a flight from any capital city in the EU takes, but also the time needed to get to the airport. What is the advantage of a short flight time when you have to spend the same time to get to the airport? This information, however, is not always provided.

The offers indicate the existence of kindergartens and education facilities. However, further information about the linguistic offer is often missing. Moreover, many offers do not include any information about the capacity in the different language or the number of available places. What is the use of a bilingual school, if my child speaks none of the two languages? Or what is the use of an existence of an international school if there are no places available?

Even after the Commission assessment, many questions remain unanswered. Since the offers provide varying levels of information about the different criteria, the extent to which the offers can be ascertained to meet the requirements of the EMA differs. In addition, the Commission has relied on the accuracy and completeness of the offers and has not undertaken any steps to verify the information. It is considered to be sufficient that in the end the Member State whose offer is accepted will have to honour its offer in entirety. If this is really sufficient, will remain to be seen - it won't be possible, for example, to move the location of an airport once the vote has been cast!

To sum up, we still think that the decision is a tough one and only time will tell if the views of the EMA staff will be enough to sway the decision.